Scientific research is vital to ensuring that our hunting and fishing regulations are effectively conserving the natural resources of the state we all love. And normally I’m all for more study.
However, a proposed saltwater fishing license fee increase working its way through the state Legislature is a joke. The bill would hike the cost of the saltwater fishing license from $5.50 to $13 in the name of financing more research into trout, reds and other finned creatures that attract so many coastal anglers.
Who would be against that noble cause? Well, anyone who believes the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries should share the results of their studies should oppose this bill.
There already is a ton of research on these species. The LDWF has devoted a lot of money and human resources over the years building up a great understanding of the species — and historically that agency willingly analyzed and shared their findings.
Longtime readers will remember the days when each April edition included an annual trout forecast in which LDWF biologists provided predictions about the upcoming fishing season based on available data. Anglers could have some expectation of how the fishing would be in their favorite basins, and we all gained a better understanding of the science of the fishery.
But departmental cooperation in this great public service ended in 2012 following the BP oil spill. The reason, as stated several times by LDWF’s head of fisheries Randy Pausina, is that any data analysis showing thriving coastal fisheries could be used by BP to fight for reduced liability.
So just to hedge their bets and perhaps get more money, the leaders of LDWF — who are all paid by the fishing and hunting licenses you and I purchase — decided it was wiser to simply collect data and not analyze it. Or if it is analyzed to refuse public release of the information.
And now the agency is supporting, along with the Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana, a bill to raise even more money for research that will, presumably, not be analyzed and released to the public. After all, we don’t want BP to know there are a lot of trout and reds along the Louisiana coast, right?
Yeah, count me out of that deal.
It’s not that I really mind paying another $7.50 for the right to fish the greatest coastal fishery in the nation. But why should any of us pay more just to see it disappear into an agency that has abdicated its responsibilities to is constituency?
The job of the biologists at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is to serve the people of this state. That includes sharing scientific data — good or bad — with the public.
So until the agency reverses their ridiculous stance, they shouldn’t get one dime more.